SUNY ESF Students Reflect on ReLeaf 2017

Sarah Tyo is a Forest Health student at SUNY ESF and Rachel Grumm is a recent grad of SUNY ESF working as an urban forestry aide for Syracuse Parks and Recreation under the direction of Steve Harris. Sarah and Rachel received scholarships from the Council to attend ReLeaf 2017.

Sarah Tyo
SUNY ESF Forest Health student Sarah Tyo

Sarah Tyo
I am very grateful to have been able to attend the 2017 ReLeaf Conference at St. John’s University in Queens. I participated in the Natural Areas Tour that visited Alley Pond Park in Queens. It was the first natural area of the five boroughs that I’d been to, and I couldn’t believe how much plant diversity there was and how many trees were growing there. It had felt like we were transported to a forest in the country, minus the few random sounds of car horns. The City’s efforts in planting native species were apparent as tulip trees, northern red oaks, and other native trees filled the canopy. The tour was also a great way to get our legs moving.

During Friday’s lunch I was able to attend the first-ever ReLeaf Women’s Summit where anyone was welcome to sit and talk about being a woman in a male-dominated career field. It was a great way to meet other women who are established as professionals in urban forestry and hear about their experiences.

I attended the Saturday morning Forest Health and Research Update panel for the forests in NYC and Long Island. I have a personal interest in tree pests and pathogens, so I thought the panel was very informative and eye opening! A DEC Forest Health specialist went through the major threats facing our forests such as oak wilt, Asian longhorned beetle, hemlock woolly adelgid, and many more! In New York we currently have a good number of pests feeding on our trees that we all need to be aware of and address.

These experiences, along with other panels and activities at this year’s ReLeaf Conference, made it an event that I will not forget. A big thank you to everyone who helped put this conference together and came to present! I thoroughly enjoyed my first conference and I am looking forward to next year’s. I hope to see you all there.

Rachel Grumm and Colby
Rachel Grumm and Colby

Rachel Grumm
The conference was an amazing experience and I was honored to be given the opportunity to be a part of it. This experience was exactly what I needed as I’m working to set up my career path. I’ve really enjoyed the work I’ve done so far as part of my introduction to the urban forestry field and this event solidified the fact that this field is where my career is going. What excites me the most about urban forestry is that it’s such a diverse field aimed at bettering the surrounding environment and community.

My favorite part of the conference was the workshops. All the speakers were inspiring, fascinating, and positive. The workshop that stood out the most to me was “Post-Sandy Lessons Learned.” I liked how all three speakers took the storm as a way to learn more—and adapt. I participated in the Alley Pond Tour; in the past, I would pass Alley Pond on my way upstate but never before had the chance to visit. This natural area stunned me—I didn’t think this would exist in New York City!

I would like to thank the Council for providing funding for me to attend ReLeaf. I learned a lot, and it was an event I’ll always remember.

Meet the NYC Natural Areas Conservancy 2017 Summer Field Interns

NAC summer interns 2017

NYC’s Natural Areas Conservancy welcomed nine summer field interns from the City University of New York (CUNY). Over the course of eight weeks, the CUNY teams are studying NYC’s ecological health in 12 parks in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.

Led by Conservancy ecologists, the students are collecting data on plants and soil to help direct improvement of natural areas citywide. You can watch their progress and learn more about their findings by following The Natural Areas Conservancy on social media. The Conservancy thanks the Leon Levy Foundation, Lise Strickler, and Mark Gallogly for supporting this program.

Meet the interns:  

Photo taken at Marine Park, Brooklyn

Front row: Irina Arias (environmental engineering); Uziel Crescenzi (landscape architecture); Kenia Pittman (landscape architecture); Brian Stonaker (biology); Merna Youssef (physics and mathematics); Stephanie Cando (biology).

Back row: Renee Montelbano (urban sustainability); Rafael Arias (environmental engineering); Harmanveer Singh (environmental science and urban studies).

Queens Botanical Garden Tour at ReLeaf

Queens BG green roof Harriet Grimm
ReLeafers toured the green roof at Queens Botanical Garden. From QBG website: “The semi-intensive, 8,000-square-foot green roof with six inches of growing medium is planted with mostly native species that require minimal artificial watering and provide much-needed habitat for humans, birds, and insects.” Photo by Harriet Grimm

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Located at the northeast corner of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Flushing, QBG evolved from the five-acre “Gardens on Parade” exhibit showcased at the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair. Officially opening as “The Queens Botanical Garden Society” in 1946 after local residents saved and expanded the original exhibit, the Garden remained at the original World’s Fair site until 1961, when it was moved to its current location on Main Street in Flushing. Among the original plantings taken from the 1939 site are two blue atlas cedars that frame the iconic tree gate sculpture at the Garden’s Main Street entrance today. QBG has become a 39-acre oasis in one of New York City’s most bustling and diverse neighborhoods.

-From QBG website

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SCA and NYRP Partner Up for 2017 Earth Day in NYC

Making native plant seed balls
Volunteers of all ages made native plant seed balls for distribution across the five boroughs of NYC. All photos courtesy Student Conversation Association

On the 47th Annual Earth Day on April 22, 2017, New York Restoration Project (NYRP) and young people from the Student Conservation Association (SCA), in its 60th year, teamed up in Riverbank State Park in Manhattan to help “ConSERVE” New York City. Together they gave away 250 native trees—like tulip poplar, serviceberry, and black tupelo—to NYC residents. Seven hundred volunteers came out to give away trees, make native seed balls to be planted throughout the city, make recycled seed starters, conduct field research, and paint and assemble boards for park benches.

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Meet NYC Parks Director of Street Tree Planting Navé Strauss

Nave Strauss
Navé Strauss has been director of street tree planting for NYC Parks since April 2016.

Can you tell us about your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in urban forestry?
Navé Strauss: I grew up in suburban Long Island with a father who is an arborist. My parents are both strong advocates of being outside and enjoying nature, and my father’s profession supplemented my relationship with the outdoors, peppering it with knowledge of trees and insects by default. I never thought I would end up an arborist, and didn’t know I’d be leading an incredible tree planting program in my home city, but here I am and I’m extremely humbled by the opportunity to serve and share my experience, just as my father did and does with me.

Please tell us about your educational and career trajectories. 
NS: I graduated from St Lawrence University in Canton NY in 2008 with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies and an emphasis in Forestry. I started as a forester with NYC Parks soon thereafter in early 2009 and have continued my trajectory ever since, becoming a senior forester in 2014 and then director of the street tree planting program as of April 2016.

What do you enjoy so far about your current position? What are some challenges?  
NS: I love the challenges themselves—the juxtaposition between the natural and built environs and the cultural diversity of the City that leads to many good conversations with residents who are passionate about trees—or about not having trees. In all, I enjoy the complexity of the tasks at hand, how they fold into our mission, and navigating the ship while learning from my superiors, peers, and staff.

What are a few things people might be surprised to know about street tree planting in NYC? 
NS: We plant over 150 unique cultivars of trees in our public rights-of-way on an annual basis! That is an insane number, and we are extremely proud of our accomplishments in helping to diversify the City’s urban forest.

What is your ultimate vision for the NYC street tree planting program? 
NS: To continue the upward arch of being the best street tree planting program in the world and to assure each and every New Yorker that every tree being planted is done so with every consideration in mind, even the ones they haven’t thought of (leave that to us). Finally, to know that each tree is set up to survive and thrive after our two-year establishment period has ended.

What are your interests in your free time?
NS: Cooking, reading, spending time with my loved ones, and playing guitar. I have many guitars, and I recognize that it’s a problem, but I am not ready to stop collecting.

Anything else you want to be sure to share?
NS: Talking to New Yorkers about the best slice of pizza is risky business—be prepared to hunker down and listen. Is it the sauce, the dough, the cheese, or the toppings? Many differ, even those who agree on politics.

Get to Know Him! Board Member Shawn Spencer

teaching kids
Dad to two boys, Shawn Spencer (right) leads nature hikes with Cub Scouts, teaching them about trees and shrubs, animals, poison ivy ID, and Leave No Trace.

Please tell us about childhood influences that may have foreshadowed your career.
Shawn Spencer: I was born in upstate New York but grew up in the Tidewater region of Virginia. Our neighborhood had lots of trees in it and backed up to fallow farmland that was being overrun with pioneer trees.  My parents were big into landscaping, so we maintained many different trees on our yard. I climbed in them, raked the leaves and needles, and helped prune them. Mom was a nurse and Dad an electrical engineer; neither sat behind a desk for work, and I knew I didn’t want to, either. I started taking all the science and biology classes I could take in junior and senior high school. I was also very active with my Cub Scout Pack and Boy Scout Troop, earning nearly all of the Natural Resource-based merit badges and doing all sorts of environmental/conservation service projects. I was good with a double bit axe and could start a fire in a Virginia rainstorm but was equally good with a shovel to plant more trees and shrubs.

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The Phenomenal, Interactive New York City Street Tree Map

NYC street tree map

 

Using data from the TreesCount! 2015 inventory, NYC Parks brings us the interactive New York City Street Tree Map, the world’s most extensive, accurate, and detailed tree map. With the Map, anyone can access data about any street tree in the City.

Users can learn about the inventory as a whole, including its quantifiable ecological benefits and predominant species, they can mark trees as favorites and share them with friends, and they can record their tree stewardship activities. They can find out ecological benefits of each individual tree; for instance, the Japanese pagoda tree at 213 E 73rd Street, provides the following benefits.

NYC pagoda tree benefits

 

CityLab, from The Atlantic, published a nice article about the project. Author Laura Bliss reports that “For more than a year, some 2,300 volunteers helped park officials survey more than 685,000 street trees across all five boroughs, gathering stats on species, bark health, trunk width, latitude and longitude, and—this was new—GPS coordinates for every one.”

The interactive New York City Street Tree Map that was created from that data is a marvel. It will surely inspire more of its kind.

 

Green Horizons Career Fair 2016: Introducing NYC Middle Schoolers to Urban Forestry & Other Environmental Careers

 

Green Horizons Environmental Education Day Brooklyn Botanical Gardens October 2010

Over 200 NYC middle school students, teachers, and guidance counselors enjoyed the 21st Green Horizons event on October 20th, 2016 in Central Park. New York City’s annual environmental and natural resources careers day continues to provide a free and hands-on experience for young people, working directly with professionals who volunteer their time to introduce careers they love.

Green Horizons Environmental Education Day Brooklyn Botanical Gardens October 2010

Rotating around the five boroughs, Green Horizons is intensely collaborative, combining the strengths of governmental agencies at all levels, private corporations, and not-for-profit organizations. This year, the host organization was Central Park Conservancy; 20 stations were sited around the Harlem Meer in the northern part of the Park. Among the various offerings, students learned about urban forestry, arboriculture, horticulture, landscape planning, geology, meteorology, entomology, wetlands management, and water quality monitoring.

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Bronx River Alliance & Partners to Restore Bronx River Forest

Bronx river restoration
The beautiful 23-mile Bronx River. Photo Courtesy Natural Areas Conservancy

This story comes to us from Bronx River Alliance Deputy Director Maggie Greenfield and Natural Areas Conservancy Communications and Public Outreach Manager Nicole Brownstein. 

The Bronx River has seen its fair share of history. It was first called the Aquehung, or “River of High Bluffs” by the local Native Americans. Two tribes, the Weckquaesgeek and Siwanoy, drank the river’s water, fished along its banks, and hunted in the surrounding woods. The river also held a spiritual significance for them and was a place for ritual baths each year. Jonas Bronck arrived in 1639, brokered a deal with the Native Americans for 500 acres along the river, and turned it into farmland.

Mills sprang up along the river, harnessing its energy and using it as a natural flowing sewer system. As the manufacturing industry fell into decline and the mills began to disappear, the river remained a dumping site for the surrounding communities. This was before we fully knew or cared about the effects of industrial and residential waste dumping.

It wasn’t until the environmental movement picked up in the mid-1970s that the restoration process began along the 23-mile river. In the late 1990s, the Bronx River Working Group was founded, with more than 60 community organizations and businesses combining efforts to orchestrate work along the river. The spirit of this effort led to the creation of the Bronx River Alliance, a group dedicated to restoring the waterway. When they began their work, these activists found objects as bizarre as refrigerators, tires, and even a wine press in the river. Today the river’s health is returning, evidenced by the long-awaited appearance of river herring, American eel, eastern oyster, and beavers. But our work is not yet done.

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NYC Arbor Day Project, with Youth Growing & Planting 234 Trees

 

Magella Owen and Rajesh from HS of American Studies at Lehman College. by Anthony Thoman
Students from the High School of American Studies at Lehman College in the Bronx plant an evergreen on campus. The students are left to right: Magella Sheehan, Owen McFadzean, and Rajesh Persad. Photo by Anthony Thoman

Due to spring holidays, schools in New York City adopted May 6th as NYC Arbor Day. On that Friday last spring, most of the 59 participating schools planted their trees, which included flowering dogwoods, redbuds, wild cherries, maples, Colorado spruces, red oaks, black walnuts, river birches, honey locusts and black pines. Also planting were Urban Park Rangers at Inwood Hill Park, which is part of NYC Parks & Recreation.

planting Sophia
Kindergartners in Pat Evens’s class at PS 174 in Queens plant a redbud tree they named Sophia. Photo by Pat Evens

The total number of trees planted was 234, which had been grown to size and carefully tended by students and teachers at John Bowne High School in Flushing, Queens. Students at Bowne participate in the Plant Science and Animal Science programs at this high school. The tree nursery is part of a small farm that is also home to animals, greenhouses, an orchard, and vegetable planting beds.

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